Cocktails, Ciders & Shrubs: Season of the Apples


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Apple cider has been on quite a roll lately, and while some of the major brands have found growth has slowed or even reversed, many new cideries are still finding that they can sell all of what they make. After five years of surging volumes, the entire category volume only improved by about 3% last year. Better results are expected this year, and the value (according to Chicago-based Information Resources, Inc.) of hard cider was up approximately 15% in US retail. Specific on-premise data isn’t available but if what’s appearing on tap and in bottles at beer-focused restaurants and bars is any indication, things are still strong.

So why not more hard or soft apple cider? And for that matter, why not more apple juice, applejack and Calvados-influenced drinks in bars and restaurants? It has taken a while but this year, for the first time in a while, we are seeing signs of growth of all aspects of the apple as new fall menus start to make their appearances.

"Fall comes on with a crisp breath of fresh air, especially after a long, hot, and lazy summer,” says Christy Pope of the Midnight Rambler in Dallas. “The Apple Crisp embodies this sensation in a glass, with crisp apple notes from Laird's Applejack complemented by fresh citrus and a touch of warm ginger."

In her Apple Crisp, Pope combines lemon juice, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, Laird's Applejack, tops it with club soda in a highball glass, and adds a lemon wheel and ginger candy.

Others are just now rolling out apple-inspired drinks as well. At the Rye Bar in the Rosewood in Washington, DC, this fall’s new menu features Applishion (hot apple cider infused with cinnamon sticks, cloves fruit, star anise, Redemption Rye, and Cappelletti, garnished with a cinnamon rim) and the Smoked Apple (rye whiskey, Pedro Ximénez sherry, smoked apple syrup, lemon juice, orange bitters and Angostura bitters, garnished with an apple).

In Chicago, as the colder months get closer, bartenders are starting to mix up apple cocktails in a variety of ways: brandy, cider, shrubs, and hard cider. There’s the Collins-like Call To Arms at 312 Chicago, concocted by head bartender Jennifer Knott (Calvados, Punch Fantasia Amaro, lemon juice, Vander Mill Hard Cider); and the hot beverage Mele Caldo (Laird’s Apple Brandy, Amaro Meletti, apple cider reduction, hot water, and a cinnamon stick).

Then there’s Syd & David created by Ruthie Bisek at Chicago’s South Water Kitchen (Hennessy Cognac, Grand Marnier, Plantation Rum, honey crisp apple shrub, and orange bitters); and Apple Bottom Bates from Pito Rodriguez of Sable Kitchen & Bar (Rhine Hall Apple Brandy, cardamom-spiced Port, Zucca, vanilla syrup, Angostura Bitters, salt, soda, and ginger ale).

Not to be out done, NYC’s Porchlight is just rolling out its fall menu, with a southern twist on apples. Nick Bennet’s Three Rings is made with Old Forester bourbon, Laird's bonded apple brandy, dried cherry syrup, Cruzan Black Strap Rum, bitters, and drops of Normandy cider vinegar; and the Harvest Moon Cocktail made with Laird’s Apple Brandy, maple syrup, lemon juice, allspice/chinchona tincture, and an egg white, shaken and served with freshly grated cinnamon.

That’s a lot of apple inspiration, enough to make the various appley ingredients a definite go to this fall.